Archive for août 2009

Schloss Berg, Nennig III

août 29, 2009

 

I had the chance to spend a few weeks in Christian Bau’s kitchen lately and will write about my experiences, if time permits. My last meal there, a few weeks ago was as good as the one in April, and the restaurant is definitely among my top 5. 

 

La maison

La maison

A few words about the chef should be said. During my two weeks in his kitchen, he was there at every single service, during the whole 16 to 18 hours of the normal day and closed the restaurant every night. Not only was he there, but he also cooks most of the sauces, prepares and cooks the fish and many other things. Nothing leaves this kitchen without his blessing. I was certainly impressed when I stood in front of three boxes of tomatoes waiting to be peeled, when suddenly the chef came along and peeled them with me. Such things only show too well how much this man and his brigade work.

DSCN1184

Now, to the meal, which is the reason for this post after all. We started with a glass of the house Champagne, which is a very pleasant blanc de blancs and not too costly for a 3* (I think it is 14euro). The first nibbles that arrive at the table already show the immense attention to detail and complexity of the cooking here. The diner is presented with a few brik-tubes, filled with Parma ham mousse today, a cold soup with some air (today it was a beetroot gazpacho with buttermilk air), a few almonds and a little selection of canapés. The crunchy cannelloni were very enjoyable, as were the almonds. The soup, which at the last visit was a little underwhelming had great intensity and power this time. The combination with the buttermilk worked marvelously well too. The stars of this first round of treats are plated on the slate board though. At the top left, one has crab bread with swordfish/oyster tartar and apple foam. This is very fresh, with great textural (crunchy, creamy and airy) combinations. In short, a great little bite (and classic here). Also on the plate was a tomato, pesto, mozzarella tartlett, which was very good, as usual. The last part was a cracker with cream cheese, two kinds of tobiko caviar and a chicken skin crisp. This was not bad at all, but I don’t fancy cream cheese that much. Excellent.

 

Gazpacho, croustillants et amandes

Gazpacho, croustillants et amandes

 

Canapes

Canapes

 

Next up was a new version of the little cornet, I had eaten at the previous visit. Today it was filled with avocado cream, yuzu sorbet (a slightly salted one), hamachi tartar and wasabi foam. This was just one fresh, rewarding mouthful. Amazing in every sense, if a little less gourmand than the beef/eel/caviar version, I had tried in April. Excellent.

 

Cornet avocat, hamachi, yuzu, wasabi

Cornet avocat, hamachi, yuzu, wasabi

Moving on with the next round of amuses, we had a Bau classic: Two spoonfuls of foie gras. One was an ice cream with a little cherry compote and the other a gateau, with coffee, hazelnut and cherry. The foie here always impresses. This time it didn’t fail to do so neither. It was tasty, creamy, perfectly prepared and great with the slightly bitter coffee jelly. The hazelnuts gave it a little crunch, which I always adore. The ice cream of foie is another winner. It is very intense and unbelievably creamy. Once you have it in your mouth, you wonder how a thing this unctuous can actually stay in shape that well (on the plate). Outstanding.

 

Foie Gras, noix, cerises, cafe

Foie Gras, noix, cerises, cafe

Up next was another Bau classic, in a different version this time. The clarified gazpacho came with olive and mozzarella drops, cucumber sorbet, sea cucumber and carabineros. The flavour of every element was outstandingly present, fresh and clear and the combination of the different parts worked marvelously too. The stars of the show were undoubtedly the sea cucumber and carabinero. I had the opportunity to try a little sea cucumber in the kitchen a few days earlier, so I knew what amazing texture to expect, but I was still startled. It is only poached in grape seed oil, and thus remains very clean in terms of taste, and possibly the best way to discover a product such as this. This was one of the most interesting and satisfying, completely new textures I have come across up to now. The carabinero (large red shrimp that live off the Spanish coast) was as good as they get (which means very, very good). The only problem with such products is the exorbitant price. However, if the chef serves it, all you can do is eat it, no? Outstanding.

 

Gazpacho

Gazpacho

Another serving of spoons came right up. This time it was a langoustine variation. A base of tartar with trout caviar was topped with some deep-fried langoustine. The second spoon featured a “raviolo”: tartar wrapped in lardo di Colonnata and crowned with Ossietra caviar. This is an absolute masterpiece. One can’t say anything about this dish but note that it gets pretty damn close to what perfection could taste like. The deep-fried langoustine is coated in the thinnest, crunchiest of batters and gives the creamy, rich tartar both crunch and a different structure. This is really worth a trip on its own. This was one mouthful for which I wouldn’t have minded a couple of hours driving. I really can’t say just how unbelievably good this was. However, there was another spoon awaiting me. This one wasn’t exactly what I would call disgusting neither. Despite being based on the same tartar, the lardo/caviar combination gave it a totally different feeling. The melting lardo, the briny caviar complemented the tartar utmost perfectly. Another outstanding dish based on langoustines within a month’s time (after Hof van Cleve’s terrific langoustines). DIVINE.

 

Langoustines

Langoustines

Just to remind you, we are still at the amuses. Yes, maybe you can see how much effort is being put in to every part of the meal here. These creations are more complex than whole dishes at other high-end restaurants and don’t even make up a big part of the meal. The last plate to come as a “greeting from the kitchen” was a salmon/oyster raviolo with asparagus and wasabi/courgette cream. This was a slightly modified version of the version we had eaten in April. A subtle change can make a huge differnce, as we were about to see. The raviolo was lukewarm this time, which made all of the tastes come out beautifully (oysters are best eaten at 36 degrees Celsius as they have much more complexity). Also added this time was a wasabi cream, which I must say, was very welcome due to the spiciness of it. This was absolutely delicious again.

 

Saumon

Saumon

 

The first few courses were the same as the ones I had in April, so I will only give brief explanations about these.

 

The first was the Crab Marinated and Deep-Fried/ 2x Watermelon/ Dashi Jelly. It comes as a croustillant and as a salad. The watermelon is served in the form of a sorbet and as a grilled slice. As the watermelon is relatively sweet, this dish is a little too sweet for my taste, if eaten without the sorbet. The freshness of the sorbet however, balances the whole thing beautifully. The fritter is one adorable mouthful, which was the star of the dish. Excellent.

 

Watermelon

Watermelon

The next course was as good, if not better than last time. The blue fin tuna tataki/ Crispy & Sour Vegetables/ Ponzu/ Japanese Essence with Ginger Ale is a classic of the house, and rightfully so. The dish doesn’t only present you with the ever perfect quality of the ingredients, but is also very clever in terms of the construction. The tuna itself is slightly grilled, tender, tasty,… The vegetables (without the abalone this time, which I found a little annoying in the first version of it) were perfect, as was the soup with tuna/avocado tartar. The vegetables gave you a slightly acidic note, whilst the soup had a most complex taste, which complemented the tuna very well. Excellent.

 

Thon

Thon

 

Thon II

Thon II

 

Thon III

Thon III

Here comes a new one: Blue Lobster/ Tepid Quinoa/ Passe Pierre & Green Apple/ Cream of Corail/ Aroma & Oil of Curry from Madras. This is another accomplished dish. It is very complex as it features a salicorne puree, curry mayonnaise, pan-fried salicorne, green apple sticks and foam, the lobster, a lobster jus, the corail cream, cury oil, quinoa both popped and cooked with the lobster claws and chicken skin. Taste-wise the different aromas work very well, as each gives a little bit to the whole thing. One can mix the diverse elements in any way, and will never be disappointed. I particularly enjoyed the corail cream, which has incredible power and very pleasing texture. Another great dish. Excellent.

 

Homard

Homard

Up next was another classic. Coquille Saint-Jacques/ Seawater Tapioca/ Chutney of Carrots/ Foam & Aroma of Raz el Hanout. The scallops were of very high quality (as French ones are out of season, the chef uses Scandinavian ones) and were cooked perfectly. I was kind of sad about the fact that they were halved, but one can’t do much about it. This crime seems to invade the continent too. The tapioca has an interesting, but pleasing taste, which again, works well with the other elements on the plate. This was excellent (sorry for being repetitive, but that’s the way this food is).

 

Coquille St Jacques

Coquille St Jacques

Now came one of my favourites. A tempura of frog’s legs, with enoki mushrooms, a watercress soup, spinach and wasabi cream. The main part is made up of the deep-fried legs, with raw and deep-fried enoki mushrooms, spinach, wasabi cream, parsley and garlic. The little cup contains some of the smallest ravioli I have seen so far (they must be about as big as a 2cent coin), some boned frog leg meat and watercress soup. The legs were brilliant, crunchy batter, tender,tasty meat and a great cream to dip them into: all one can ask for. The spinach seemed to be a base for the little beignets to stand on more than anything else, but that didn’t matter at all. The wasabi cream was lovely and spiced things up a little, which isn’t a bad thing seeing that it was a dish which contained mostly deep-fried elements. Watercress isn’t something I have liked for a long time, but this soup was stunning. Every leaf is hand-picked to produce a soup of an intensity and tastiness that is unheard of. I guess a healthy dose of butter and/or cream helped to get to this, but I really didn’t mind. This was terrific.  Outstanding.

 

Grenouilles

Grenouilles

Turbot is a fish I particularly enjoy if it is very fresh (thus very firm). I know that most people will prefer it slightly matured, but that doesn’t interest me in the least, as I find this firm, meaty texture most impressive. The best piece of turbot I have tasted in my life was at ADPA, where the thick cut completely redefined what turbot should taste like. Here it was very good, but not quite there yet. Bau buys fish that are about 5,5kg and therefore deliver some meaty fillets. The current version is called Atlantic Turbot/ Smoked Eel Glazed over Charcoal/ Eggplant-Miso/ Shiso Pesto/ Deep-Fried “Ladyfingers”. This dish showed Bau’s penchant for Asian and Japanese cuisine in a good way. The techniques are clearly French, but the spices, condiments, and combinations are inspired by Japanese cooking. The turbot was, as I mentioned, of top quality and had great flavour and texture (not to mention the perfect cooking). The real star of the dish was the smoked eel. I absolutely adored its strong flavour, which was only enhanced by glazing it over real charcoal. The highly complex vinaigrette and aubergine miso cream complemented each element beautifully. Excellent.

 

Turbot

Turbot

Up next was a fantastic local product: Saddle of Venison from Eifel/ 2x Pointed Cabbage/ Apricots& Chanterelles/ Jus of Venison with Bitter Cocoa and Mild Chili. These are wild animals that are being brought to the restaurant by a game dealer based around 50km north of Nennig, in Trier. Bau served the rack covered with a slice of foie gras, which starts to melt as it is presented to the guest. This doesn’t only enhance the dishe’s flaovur, but also makes the fat-free meat a little more interesting. The cooking was perfect as always during the weeks of my internship. They hardly use any sous-vide  here and manage to cook every piece of venison or lamb to an exact temperature; every day. I must say that sous-vide is great for an amateur, but a 3* restaurant should take the effort to cook meat traditionally, which many, sadly, don’t do anymore. The perfect cooking results not only in very tender meat, but one also has the lovely gamey flavour, which worked beaufitully with the cocoa/Piment d’Espelette sauce. The garnishes were girolles with dried abricots, a combination I adore, as girolles smell of exactly these dried abricots. The cream and sushi of pointed cabbage were as good as in a hare dish I had eaten last December. All in all, this was another excellent dish.

 

Chevreuil

Chevreuil

 

To move to the sweet side of things, one is served lemongrass ice cream coated in white chocolate. On the base of the little bon bon, one finds zeta peta, which came rather unexpected for my companion, who couldn’t help displaying a bright smile. Very good.

 

GLace

GLace

Moving on, we had the first of three desserts. I must admit that I find the look of that spoon, crowning the “Small Iced Coffee” a little too classic, but the dessert wass highly interesting. First of all, it is nearly devoid of any sweetness. When one starts to eat it, a very strong taste of coffee dominates. As I progressed, I got to like it more and more, as the subtle sweetness of the mascarpone cream does come through eventually and balances the dish in a remarkable way. The spoon gave the whole thing some crunch and further sweetness, making this a perfect little pre-dessert. Very good.

 

Cafe

Cafe

 

The Gariguette Strawberry/ Mild Ginger/ Yoghurt/ Sorbet of Yuzu was a real winner. There is nothing in the dessert world that  I despise more than some kind of soup as a dessert. I just don’t have any good memories of sweet soups. This time, the story was a little different. The strawberry soup was spiced with a little ginger, which gave it a kick and made the whole thing delicious if eaten with the (sweet) yuzu sorbet. The little strawberries with their different balls on the side made me think of Hof van Cleve. On the other side sits the yoghurt bonbon, which is yoghurt sorbet, sandwiched between crunchy sugar. This was a most refreshing, spicy, interesting dessert. Excellent.

 

Soupe de fraises

Soupe de fraises

Nothing against the two previous ones, but the last one did steal the show. Chocolate & Passion Fruit Canache and Cream/ Salpicon of Exotic Fruits/ Marbled Coconut Ice Cream. It was a play on Bau’s classic, which I had in December last year. Today the chocolage ganache was paired with a passion fruit cream or jelly of sorts. A base of praline gives the dessert crunch, as do the tuiles. I was astonished how well the different pieces of fruit worked with the bitter chocolate. After all, such combinations are often unsuccessful, so to see one, that actually does taste marvelous was pretty much new to me. The little tower contained a brunoise of the same fruit, the marbled ice cream and some sort of chocolate cream. All in all, this was a fantastic dessert, which closed the meal more than beautifully.

 

Chocolat

Chocolat

To accompany your coffee you are of course presented with a few petit fours and mignardises. On the slate you see from the bottom to the top: An after eight Negerkuss, an olive pate de fruit, a cherry filled with some kind of rice and a lemon tart. With it come a few nuts covered with chocolate and two kinds of marshmallow. Also served, but not pictured was a wide selection of pralines. Out of all these treats I disliked the cherry/raspberry combo, but the rest was excellent. I particularly enjoyed the lemon tart, the Negerkuss, the pralines and the pate de fruit.

 

Petit fours

Petit fours

This meal only demonstrated too well how good Christian Bau cooks. Not only is there an immense amount of work in this food, but also a passion for cooking and gastronomy that is driving things forward here. He travels to restaurants, spends as much time as his cooks in the kitchen, closes the restaurant and doesn’t let anything happen without his personal ok. This is a serious cook, who deserves to get much more attention, not only in Europe, but also world-wide.

 

A trip to Nennig will always be worth any distance traveled.  The cooking and seriousness here is just mind-blowing. Coupled with the great service and fantastic sommeliere, Britta Jäger, your time spent here, will be time well spent.

La Grappe d’or, Torgny

août 18, 2009

 

La Maison

La Maison

 

 

Torgny is Belgium’s southernmost village. It is also called the Provence of Belgium, for exactly this reason. So, when we decided to have a look there, a restaurant, which held a Michelin * and 18p in the Gault Millau for a long time came into mind. This place had just been taken over by a young chef, who trained under Antoine Westermann and Guy Martin (both had 3* at the time).

 

Le jardin

Le jardin

The chef, Clement Petitjean, has chosen his location wisely. His restaurant is in an absolutely beautiful village, and on a day like the one we had, it could well be somewhere behind St Tropez (only with more flowers). The restaurant has a beautiful garden, in which one can have an aperitif and enjoy the sun. 

 

La table

La table

 

 

The meal started on the stunning terrace with a little selection of amuses. These consisted of a fennel sphere, a shot glass filled with foie gras and some beans and an ice cream made out of tomatoes, served with a little marinated sea bream. The fennel sphere was decent if a little tasteless. The foie glass on the other hand, was very good. The tastes were strong, and the foam and beans added another dimension in both flavour and texture. The ice cream or sorbet with the fish was pleasant but too sweet. All in all, not too bad for a 1* restaurant.

 

Amuses

Amuses

Next up came a fennel crisp with a little house made barbeque sauce. This was nicely crunchy and a little smoky, due to the sauce. Good.

 

Fenouil

Fenouil

 

 

Parmesan bread was very good, but the butter had a bizarre taste. Not that it was bad, only somewhat unusual.

 

Le pain

Le pain

 

 

The last pre-meal snack was a courgette cream with a little snail. The presentation is a matter of taste, I found it to look quite ridiculous, but other people at the table didn’t share this feeling. Taste-wise, it could deliver. The courgette was very present and the snail very well prepared. Very good.

 

Courgette

Courgette

The first course was a tartar of lobster with agastache, a cromesquis of herbs and some lime sorbet. This was a very good dish indeed. The lobster wasn’t overcooked and had both good texture and taste. A cromesquis is normally a hot, crunchy croquette, but here, it was merely lukewarm and had lost any sign of crunchiness. The flavour was there, but without the temperature or texture it was rather forgettable. The sorbet and snow were very good, if mixed with the lobster tartar. Again, this was good for a 1*.

 

Homard

Homard

The following was a “signature” of the house. A combination of pig’s trotter, foie gras and sweetbread was served with the jus of braised veal shin and a few asparagus. The problem here was the dry sweetbread. One side was fine, whilst the other was completely overcooked. The foie was perfectly cooked, as were the asparagus (why place them in such a stupid fashion on the plate?). The pig’s trotter only featured in the crisp, which could have been made out of anything and the jus was more a tomato sauce than a veal jus. Mediocre, considering it was supposed to be a classic of the chef.

 

Ris de veau/foie gras

Ris de veau/foie gras

 

 

The fish course was much more successful. A piece of salmon was perfectly cooked and served with black radishes and some emulsion. This was a very fine piece of salmon, which was expertly cooked and accompanied by simple, yet effective garnishes. The kropoek provided the crunch, whilst the radish gave it a little spiciness and the emulsion some airy, light note. Very good.

 

Saumon

Saumon

 

As a main course we had an Anjou Pigeon served with prunes, crunchy cepes and a consommé of  the pigeon’s heart and liver. The meat was cooked perfectly. Un peu moins que rose, as Francois Simon once said. It thus had great texture and tasted brilliantly. The crunchy cepes were useless, as they had absolutely no recognisable flavour, due to the thin shaving that they were. The prune puree was obviously on the rather sweet side of things but didn’t disturb, as the pigeon’s strong, robust flavour worked well with this little refreshing counterpoint. The accompanying consommé was very nice and had some good strength. Don’t ask me what the jelly was supposed to be, as I couldn’t really taste anything, nor did I ask. Very good.

 

Pigeon

Pigeon

 

 

The cheese cart here was very impressive for a rural 1* in the middle of nowhere. They all come from Robert Bedot, as well-known Affineur in Rocquebrune.  I tried around seven and found all of them to be excellent.

 

Les Fromages

Les Fromages

 

 

Also served was a beetroot granite, marinated beetroot and goat’s cheese from the region. This was nice and proved to work well.

 

Chevre

Chevre

 

Pre-dessert was a bourbon vanilla crème brulee. It’s been a long time since I have been served a thing as simple as this, and it brings back tons of memories. Not bad at all.

 

Creme brulee

Creme brulee

 

 

The dessert itself was quite interesting. A few different chocolate preparations played with various confit (sweet) vegetables. Fennel, peas (the green crisp), carrots all worked astonishingly well with the dark chocolate. Not something I would want to eat everyday, but it was good in general.

 

chocolat

chocolat

 

 

Petit-fours were uninspiring and quite bad for most of them. The only good bite was the chocolate dome.

 

Petit fours

Petit fours

 

 

 

All in all, this was a pleasant evening, and was rather affordable (the menu we had was around 70euro). The food itself was good, without being really memorable. The chef can, if he wants go to 2* level, but that remains to be seen. I wouldn’t travel for this place but it definitely deserves that one star.

Hof van Cleve, Kruishoutem

août 10, 2009

 

La Salle

La Salle

Peter Goossens is without doubt the best and most famous chef in Belgium. Besides his 3* (19,5/20p in Gault Millau) in Kruishoutem, he also runs the MuseumBrasserie in the Bozar in Brussels and appears on TV. Interestingly, other chefs don’t despise him nor is there any negative criticism from the guests’ side. Some of his colleagues even name his restaurant, when asked about their favourite one. This doesn’t facilitate the reservation process in the least. I thus considered myself lucky to have finally secured a booking for a Wednesday lunch, after two years of patience.

 

La terasse

La terasse

The restaurant sits on top of a hill overlooking the “Flamish Ardennes”. The few hills, of inconsiderable height, allow the guests to have a lovely view over the plat pays that surrounds the house. This terrace is equally beautiful as that of In de Wulf, and invites you to take a most enjoyable aperitif or digestif. The old farmhouse is relatively small, but is most charming. The 11 tables are spread between 2 rooms with low ceilings and white walls. The walls are hung with paintings by rather well known Flamish artists.

On the table, one finds the essential elements, but no more. The whole is very stylish and most appealing. Note, that they introduce little details everywhere. From the now nearly omnipresent stool for handbags to a choice of six knives for your meat course, one gets the impression of this being a serious restaurant.

 

La table

La table

 

The bread quality varied (in terms of crusts). A baguette and a few other types where stunning, with great crusts and airy centre. Other types (notably three breads done with three Belgian beers) had a overpowering bitterness. The butter was good, and in addition one has a choice of around 10 olive oils was provided upon request. This last bit was a nice touch, even if nearly no one made use of it (we’re in a butter eating region after all).

 

Les pains

Les pains

The first few bites arrived promptly: A toast with a piece of marinated salmon and an ox tail nem were delectable. Both were done with high quality products and well prepared.

 

Saumon, queue de boeuf

Saumon, queue de boeuf

The following marinated herring with many flavours playing around it was of the highest quality. These bites make clear that we aren’t in the most lazy of places, as they are more complex than whole dishes at other restaurants. Very good.

 

Hareng

Hareng

 

 

The following amuse was most interesting. A beef carpaccio was topped with cured hamachi and paired with wasabi ice cream. This could have been a stunning combination but the beef and fish were too cold and a little underseasoned to make their taste come through. It therefore tasted a little thin. The combination however, worked beautifully and provided a refreshing, amusing touch. Very good.

 

boeuf, hamachi

boeuf, hamachi

A bowl containing a bit of quinoa tinted green with herbs, parmesan cream and deep-fried frog legs was absolutely divine. The frog legs were of outstanding quality and the combination was terrific. It was rich, without being heavy, tasty, crunchy, creamy, spiced,… in short: all one wants. This was truly divine.

 

Grenouille

Grenouille

The amuse which followed was an onion soup and foam, a few bits of lacquered duck and a crisp of duck skin. This was very good indeed. The soup had great depth of flavour and was most pleasant. The duck was a bit overpowered by the soup, but otherwise, this was another very good little plate.

 

Soupe aux oignons

Soupe aux oignons

 

 

The last was based on crab, which came with a sorbet of grapefruit and sesame. This was perfectly balanced bitterness and acidity working against the iodine taste of the crab. A more refreshing and interesting little combination can hardly be made. Excellent.

 

Crabe

Crabe

 

 

Having driven a good distance, I added a few courses to the lunch menu (95euro) to make the whole thing worthwile. As I had already seen the long tasting menu (205euro) in a few reports, I wanted to try different dishes which seemed more interesting. I added one beef cheek and langoustine dish and a dessert. The prices in general are very Parisian here. Most starters are at 80euro with mains come at around 100euro. The wine list is fairly priced for a restaurant of that level.

 

The first course was Langoustine de Guilvinec/ cresson/ concombre/ avocat. This came in two parts. The hot part featured a sizeable langoustine, cooked on the plancha and topped with crispy bread. With it came some langoustine tartar, avocado cream, langoustine bouillon and quinoa. The second, cold part was based on a royale of langoustine, in which a few pieces of langoustine rested, “tagliatelle” of cucumber and a watercress jus. Both featured langoustines of absolutely fantastic quality. These beasts were not only big but also firm, nearly crunchy, tasty and perfectly cooked. This slightly crunchy texture of well-prepared langoustine meat is just one of the greatest things on this earth. You do not get this texture in raw preparations, which is why I prefer cooked langoustines. The hot composition was absolutely great. The flavours were strong, well balanced and absolutely harmonious. This was really outstanding. The cold part was much more focused on the cress and the cucumber, with the langoustine playing a secondary role only. This was not bad, as it was very fresh, and featured the great combination of cress and the langoustine’s iodine flavour. I preferred the hot part, but can’t really find anything to complain about the other neither. Excellent.

 

Langoustine

Langoustine

Next up was Cabillaud danois/ jeunes poireaux/ brandade/ crabe royal. This beautiful composition was a perfect example of the incorporation of regional elements into haute cuisine. The crevettes grises were fried in a tempura style batter resulting in a stunning mouthful, the cod was slowly cooked, which gave it relatively soft texture, the potatoes were both smoked and excellent and the leeks cooked al dente. Every element was expertly seasoned and prepared. The whole was a rather classic, but very tasty plate. The cod wasn’t of the outstanding quality I had expected and was outshined by the little shrimps, which I absolutely adored. Excellent.

 

Cabillaud

Cabillaud

 

 

The third course was an addition and came in two parts again. Ravioli de joues de boeuf braisees/ champignons de Paris/ roquette/ langoustine (50euro).  This is supposedly a signature dish, which has been on the menu from pretty much the beginning of the restaurant. The combination is absolutely fantastic. The langoustine was the biggest piece I have come across. Easily as big as a lobster tail (a small one though), it had even more exciting texture as the one of the first course. It was just as Ducasse describes the texture of live langoustines in his Grand Livre de Cuisine: They are nearly crunchy, making them the finest crustacean. Combined with the compote of beef cheeks in the open raviolo, it was an affair of pure delight. I can’t really think of anything more gourmand than this. Such products and skilled cooking rarely meet, and if they do, the result definitely is worth a journey. In my case, it might have been the best 50euro I had ever spent. Truly divine. One of the best dishes I ever tasted.

 

Langoustine, raviolo

Langoustine, raviolo

 

 

I was rather surprised when a second plate appeared on the table. This second part of the beef cheek raviolo dish consisted of braised cheeks with cepes and onion tempura. Again, it was more than delicious. The cepes were extremely tasty and powerful and managed to come through, despite the beef cheek’s power. The combination worked even better than in the first part, as the cepes do have more flavour than normal button mushrooms. Excellent.

 

Cepes

Cepes

 

 

It was time for the main course.

 

 Cote de Veau elevee sous la mere/ estragon/ petit-pois/ girolles.

The concept of this dish was terrific. All of the flavours were spot on. They worked beautifully and had great depth. The potato cubes were outstanding with great crunch and a creamy interior. The pea cream and peas were equally enjoyable. The only problem was the meat itself, supposedly the centrepiece of the dish. The veal had been cooked sous-vide, but was strangely dry and tasted very thin. This must have been a problem with my piece in particular, as I have heard others rave about this dish. The accompanying jus was on the tasteless side too, unfortunately. However, the braised veal cheek compote was very good, Good as a whole, could have been excellent, if the meat and jus were better.

 

Veau

Veau

 

 

To go on with the sweet side of things, I was served a little Mojito with a lime foam. This was refreshing, well-made and very successful.

 

Mojito

Mojito

 

 

Next up was an almond cream, an abricot jelly and a few drops of white chocolate and different fruits. I really liked this one, as it was fresh again, but had some nice textural variations. The little drops were also highly interesting in terms of texture.

 

Abricot

Abricot

 

 

 

The first dessert, from the menu was Banane/ fruits de la passion/ citron vert/ mascarpone. It came in two parts, with the main plate featuring a chocolate mousse, topped with a banana mousse. This construction was then crowned by some lemon ice cream and a few colourful dots. This was served with a chocolate Madeleine. I loved this dessert. The mousses had very airy, light texture, whilst displaying strong flavour. The ice cream perfectly balanced sweetness with acidity, and cooled things down a little.

 

Banane I

Banane I

 

 

The side dish contained banana mousse, passion fruit jelly, mascarpone mousse, sponge cake and chocolate crumble. This was just as good as the main plate, if not better. The combination worked marvelously well. One could everything together, mix a few elements, eat just one thing. It always worked. Outstanding dessert.

 

Banane II

Banane II

 

 

As I was a little hungry and had to drive 3 hours back to Luxembourg, I decided to go for another dessert: Chocolat Java 36%/ noisettes/ the vert/ vanille (25 euro).

This was another winner, I usually don’t take chocolate based desserts in restaurants, as they somehow manage to produce more or less the same thing with a little variation here and there. In this case the maitre d’hotel recommended it to me, so I followed his guidance. I was more than rewarded for my obedience. The hazelnut praline base was topped with a caramel ganache, milk chocolate mousse and crowned with a little vanilla cream, crunchy chocolate balls and sponge cake. With it came white chocolate ice cream, flavoured with green tea and a separate glass. In this glass I found chocolate mousse and raspberry marmelade, topped with vanilla drops and frozen raspberries. The glass was not bad at all, with good, vibrant flavours and textures. The real stars were the ice cream and gateau. The ice cream had perfect consistency, and the white chocolate/ green tea combination was heavenly. The gateau was better than most of the type I had tried so far. It had not only much more potent, strong flavours, but also featured nice textural touches (such as the drops, songe cake and various mousses and creams). All in all, this dessert was yet another outstanding creation.

 

Chocolat

Chocolat

 

 

Thinking this beautiful meal was over, I went outside on the terrace to enjoy my coffee. But, they don’t let you walk away like that here. Just after having been seated, I was presented with yet some more goodies.

First up was a vanilla brownie with salted caramel cream and hazelnut crumble. This was another brilliant miniature, where each flavour was spot on and beautifully balanced. On the left of it was a red berry, white chocolate combination which was nicely fresh, after the very indulgent brownie.

 

Brownie

Brownie

 

 

 Also served were stunning beignets, which I absolutely adored. These were as light as air and simply brought me even closer to heaven.

 

Beignets

Beignets

The last part was by far the best I must say. The chariot de mignardises slowly made its way towards my greedy self. Such a thing is just the most enjoyable sight in a good restaurant. The selection here was impressive, by in terms of quantity and quality. Of course. I chose to try the two macarons, the éclair, the tarte au citron meringuee, the cannele, and the baba au rhum. The macarons were excellent, with a very good cream in each of them and a perfect balance between crunchy and soft. The éclair was also very successful and disappeared in a few mouthfuls. Following this I attacked the baba, which was a little too alcoholic. Having been treated to Ducasse’s version, this one was a little disappointing. Moving on, there was the cannele, a treat from Bordeaux, which I will always accept, if offered. Here, it didn’t fail to impress. It was perfect. In the same league, one found the tarte au citron, which I absolutely adored. It had the most impressive crunchy base I have ever found on a tarte with such a moist topping. The appareil was delightfully acidic and the meringue gave it some airy lightness. All in all, these were outstanding.

 

 

Mignardises

Mignardises

 

 

What a meal. I drove seven hours to get here and didn’t regret it at all. The cooking was modern, but based on outstanding products and didn’t go to far in hiding them. Only the cod was of slightly less impressive quality, as was of course the veal. Apart from that, everything was just outstanding. The langoustines will be remembered for their frighteningly fantastic texture, taste and size, as will the grey shrimp. The clearness in every plate (with exception of the main plate of the langoustine dish) was startling. The flavours weren’t muddy, but distinguishable in every sense. Nowhere was there a mistake in any possible way. I was especially impressed by the desserts, which were probably the first I had outside of France, which were as gourmand as those that I had in 3* there. I can’t understand why someone can’t produce good desserts outside of France, but in this case, I was, luckily, proved wrong. These were absolute masterpieces, which were on the same level as the savoury dishes.

 

Not only was the cooking faultless, but the service too. The young brigade knew how to take care of the guests. They all knew exactly how the dishes were made, and what they were made of, which is quite impressive. Also great was the décor. The tiny rooms were lovingly decorated, in a style which I most adore. This was somewhat in between rustic charm and very sophisticated, luxurious design. To cut a long story short, this is a must visit in the area, even if the prices are more likely to have been imported from Paris.

 

La maison

La maison